A whole new (floating) world

Filmmaker Nick White muses about his own past and the state of a floating world in flux

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My films have made a clear progression – from the teenage gross-out schlockfests of my youth, to super-8 anti-media piss-takes, to more recent films that echo a creeping concern I've had that the world isn't quite as it should be. INCORPORATED, a 30 minute film about a man being gradually destroyed by a corporation is a good example. As I've grown up (a surprisingly recent development) my cinematic concerns have been less with impressing members of the opposite sex, and more about sharing the creeping feeling that something is deeply wrong with a world where governments openly spy on us, countries are unable to agree to stop killing the environment and corporations exist purely, it seems, to destroy the world. 

But then something happened. Almost incapacitated with a sense of hopelessness and the feeling that any fun I had was likely to be in some way ruining the world, I found myself inexplicably drawn to documentaries about the Apollo moon landings. Eventually it dawned on me that I was captivated not so much by the tech or the science, but by the sense of optimistic vision that was an inherent part of the world's recovery from WW2. An optimism which you can still see in the art, architecture and music of the '50s, '60s and even some of the '70s, but has been all but lost in 2013's culture – which is now far too embarrassed to dream of a better future.

“I bought myself a flight and roped in a friend who was living, hobo-style, on his own tiny boat in San Francisco harbour, and together we motored off up the Sacramento delta to film a group of people intent on creating a series of offshore, floating countries, each with their own political system”

About the same time, I became almost accidentally involved in an ill-fated factual project at Channel4 about computer hackers. While the content was apocalyptic, naturally, and the project was eventually shut down, the realisation that making documentaries gives you licence to select and meet the most interesting people in the world was an epiphany. It spurred me on to re-ignite a personal project — a documentary about people who haven't lost that half-century old vision of a brighter future, and are working new, grand scale utopian projects. I bought myself a flight and roped in a friend who was living, hobo-style, on his own tiny boat in San Francisco harbour, and together we motored off up the Sacramento delta to film a floating festival, set up by a group of people intent on creating a series of offshore, floating countries, each with their own political system. Not just to create a new world, but to fix the current one, to boot.

A whole new (floating) world

It was a festival filled with optimism, albeit with a heavy libertarian edge, and full of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, antarctic explorers, aviators, tech geniuses and – no great surprise – NASA scientists. I can honestly say that every single person I met would merit a documentary in their own right. I couldn't have hoped for a more inspiring set of dreamers. It felt to me like a sigh of relief – that there were people out there who believed that through concerted rational thinking, and the unprecedented modern power of the individual, a brighter future could still prevail.

Discover more about Nick White's films here.

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